After being picked, most nuts are dried-not only to improve flavour and add more crunch to the texture, but to preserve them. These are what we know as raw kernels. From there, the marketing of nuts begins: shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, roasted, sprouted, candied, spiced, packaged, or bulk. But what happens to their nutritional content in the process in how nuts get processed.
Raw or Unroasted nuts.
Contrary to popular belief, raw nuts are not simply plucked from trees and sold on a grocery store shelf. As mentioned previously, most nuts are dried to preserve them and improve their flavours and textures. These are raw nuts. While raw nuts are fairly nutritious and have no added fat, they’re often bland and tasteless.
Raw nuts also contain enzyme inhibitors which help to protect the seed and keep it from germinating too early and dying off. This also helps to keep the species going. But these enzyme inhibitors, when introduced into the body, actually neutralize the enzymes your body uses to control inflammation and aid in digestion. In fact, eating nuts with these enzyme inhibitors can cause the pancreas to swell. There are only two ways to destroy these enzyme inhibitors:
- Roasting, which also destroys the enzymes,
- Sprouting, which keeps the beneficial enzymes intact.
While roasted nuts have a lot more artificial flavour than raw nuts, there are some definite disadvantages to them:
- Added oils,
- More difficult to digest,
- Less nutritional value.
Nuts can be either dry roasted or roasted in oil. As you probably already know, dry-roasted nuts contain less fat than nuts roasted in oil. In fact, roasting nuts in oil is a lot like deep frying-nuts are dumped into highly saturated palm kernel or coconut oils, adding about a gram of fat and 10 calories per ounce to nuts with an already high fat and calorie content.2 Then roasted nuts are often heavily salted and almost always have other ingredients added to them such as sugar, corn syrup, MSG, preservatives, and other additives.
In addition, many people have trouble digesting nuts because of the high fat content. Adding more fats during roasting makes them even more difficult to digest.3 Finally, roasting destroys most of the nutritional content of nuts. Vitamin B, particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), which helps produce energy and keep the heart healthy, is most often killed off in roasting. And roasting not only destroys the enzyme inhibitors, it destroys the enzymes needed by the body to help with digestion. So roasted nuts may have more flavour than raw nuts-but at a price: your health.
Sprouted nuts neatly solve the nutrition problem of roasted nuts and the tastelessness of raw nuts. The process dates back thousands of years and is still practiced today in non-meat-eating cultures where nuts are a staple food. This traditional process, called sprouting, does not begin with drying as in the case of raw or roasted nuts. Instead, freshly picked nuts are soaked in water and causing the nuts to begin germinating. The nuts are then removed from the solution and slowly dried at a very low temperature with low humidity.
This slow drying process destroys the enzyme inhibitors, releasing the full nutritional content of the nut and allowing the body’s natural enzymes to more easily digest the nuts. This process typically takes up to a week to prepare as in the case of well-selected almonds where dead nuts are rejected as they do not sprout. While much more time-consuming, sprouting makes nuts more digestible, gives them much greater nutritional value, makes them crunchier, and best of all, releases an unmistakably fresher flavour.